A Look Back at the Long List of Kennedy Family Tragedies

Joseph P. Kennedy Jr., 1944

In 1944, while serving in the United States Navy during World War II, Joseph P. Kennedy was killed in a plane crash. The eldest child of Joseph and Rose Kennedy, and President Kennedy’s brother, he was 29 years old.

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Kathleen Kennedy, 1948

Four years later, Joseph and Rose Kennedy lost another child, Kathleen Kennedy. Also known as “Kick” Kennedy, at 28 she was killed in a plane crash while on a flight from Paris to the French Riviera.

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John F. Kennedy, 1963

President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963. JFK was riding in the presidential motorcade alongside his wife, Jackie, Texas Governor John Connally and Connally’s wife, Nellie, when he was fatally shot by Lee Harvey Oswald. The 35th President of the United States, JFK was 46 years old.  

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Robert F. Kennedy, 1968

Five years later, on June 5, 1968, JFK’s brother Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated while on the presidential campaign trail. The former senator and attorney general was shot after giving a victory speech in Los Angeles’ Ambassador Hotel after winning the California primary. He was 42 years old.

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Ted Kennedy and the Chappaquiddick Incident, 1969

On July 18, 1969, Ted Kennedy drove his car off a bridge, killing 28-year-old Mary Jo Kopechne, who was trapped inside. According to Kennedy, he and his cousin, Joe Gargan, and friend Paul Markham attempted to save Kopechne. Kennedy did not report Kopechne’s death until 10 hours after the accident.

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David Kennedy, 1984

Son of Robert and Ethel Kennedy, David Kennedy died in 1984 of a drug overdose in Palm Beach, Florida. He was 28 years old.

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Michael Kennedy, 1997

In 1997, Michael Kennedy, son of Robert and Ethel Kennedy, was killed in a skiing accident in Aspen, Colorado, on New Year’s Eve. He was 39 years old.

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John F. Kennedy Jr. and Carolyn Bessette Kennedy, 1999

The president’s son was killed in 1999 in a plane crash off of Martha’s Vineyard alongside his wife, Carolyn Bessette, and sister-in-law, Lauren Bessette. JFK Jr. was piloting the plane at the time of the crash.

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Kara Kennedy, 2011

Kara Kennedy, the daughter of Senator Edward M. Kennedy and niece of Robert and John F. Kennedy, died at 51 after suffering a heart attack while working out at a gym in Washington D.C.

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Mary Kennedy, 2012

The estranged wife of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Mary Richardson Kennedy died by suicide in May 2012, her body found in a barn behind her Bedford, New York, property. She was 52 years old and in the midst of a divorce and custody battle at the time of her death.

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Christopher Kennedy Lawford, 2018

John F. Kennedy’s nephew, the son of Peter Lawford and Patricia Kennedy, died in September of 2018 at 63 years old. The actor suffered a heart attack in Vancouver, Canada.

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Saoirse Kennedy Hill, 2019

In August 2019, the granddaughter of Robert and Ethel Kennedy was found dead at her family’s Massachusetts estate after a suspected drug overdose. She was 22 years old. The family confirmed the news in a statement saying, “Our hearts are shattered by the loss of our beloved Saoirse. Her life was filled with hope, promise, and love. She cared deeply about friends and family, especially her mother Courtney, her father Paul, her stepmother Stephanie, and her grandmother Ethel.”

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Maeve Kennedy Townsend McKean, 2020

Robert F. Kennedy’s granddaughter Maeve Kennedy Townsend McKean and her young son, Gideon, went missing, according to her husband, after a canoeing accident in Chesapeake Bay on April 2, 2020.

David McKean told The Washington Post that Maeve and Gideon had “popped into a canoe” to go and retrieve a ball that had landed into the water while their family was visiting at her mom’s waterfront property in Shady Side, Maryland.

Maryland authorities confirmed in a statement that a 40-year-old woman and an 8-year-old boy went missing Thursday afternoon from that same location after they ” appeared to be overtaken by the strong winds” while canoeing.

“They just got farther out then they could handle, and couldn’t get back in,” David told the Post.

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